Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Workshop 8 - site visit to Skanska construction site


Our final Shape My City session took a slightly different twist with the group venturing away from the architecture centre gallery to visit a Skanska construction site based nearby on Queen Square.

The aim of this session was to give the young city shapers an insight into the construction side of the built environment sector, to compliment the knowledge they have gained from previous sessions on design and placemaking.


When we arrived at 66 Queen Square we were greeted from behind the hoarding by Ben Yates and Simon Dawson, construction managers for Skanska. Simon and Ben showed us through to the site office where the group started by brainstorming their stereotypes of ‘building sites’. These included wolf whistles and a very male dominated working environment. These stereotypes were challenged through the site visit -not a single wolf whistle was heard and Ben and Simon explained how the construction industry was diversifying its workforce and how there are a huge range of different job roles within the construction sector that appeal to all sorts of people with different skills and interests.

The city shapers were keen to see behind the scenes of a live construction site, but before we donned the hi-vis jackets, Ben and Simon gave the group a bit of background to the site. 66 Queen Square is currently owned by the development arm of Skanska. Skanska is an international construction company which is currently responsible for the development of new school buildings across Bristol.
Skanska purchased 66 Queen Square as a derelict heritage building from Bristol City Council. 

Initially they had to dig bore holes to see if the site was contaminated, do lots of surveying and liaise with conservation team of Bristol City Council. The site is an 1830’S terrace of Georgian buildings and Skanska are refurbishing much of the old building and adding a modern extension to make high end offices. Work started on the site in June 2013 and the project will cost approx. £13 million over 2 years.


The design team for the project are AWW Architects and there are two distinct sides to the building which integrate with two different street scenes:
  • Queen Square side with a Bath Stone fa├žade in keeping with Georgian heritage of Queen  Square
  • Kings Street side which has to compliment the Tudor exteriors of the existing buildings

Two important elements of the development are heritage and sustainability:

       Heritage – Skanska have had to work closely with the conservation team at Bristol City Council who advise that you 'can add to a heritage building but you can’t take away'. Skanska needed to try and keep as many of the original features as possible and restore elements such as wooden beams and traditional plaster in the old part of the site. Parts of the building needed to be made much stronger – floors/ceilings in the old part of the building needed to be reinforced.

       Sustainability - as a company Skanska are proud of their green credentials, and have been named the greenest company in UK across all sectors. The Green features of 66 Queen Square include photo voltaics on the roof, reduction of air loss and the majority of the exisitng building being recycled.

The Shape My City team then donned their hi-vis jackets and were given a fascinating tour around the site exploring the restored heritage parts which will serve as stylish board rooms with views over historic Queen Square, the basement which had 18 meter deep piles driven in to the ground and the infrastructure of the new open plan office spaces.

Ben and Simon also introduced the city shapers to an important tool for modern design and construction: Building Information Modelling or BIM. BIM generates 3D digital modelling of buildings and it is changing how buildings, infrastructure and utilities are planned, designed, built and managed. Simon demonstrated BIM in action on an ipad that he took around the building, showing a digital version of 66 Queen Square, which included being able to look through walls to see hidden services. The Government has set targets for the industry to use BIM more and Skanska won a BIM award for 66 Queen Square.

Personal career stories – Simon and Ben (Construction Managers)

 

Simon and Ben are construction managers for Skanska, then kindly shared a bit about their career paths with the Shape My City group……

Simon liked maths at school and went on to study civil engineering as he liked the idea of not having to work at desk all the time. After graduating he worked for Kier Construction on a £25m extension of Science Museum in London, which included have to move the huge steam train exhibits!  He then then went on to work on a range of other projects: an army barracks project of 584 bedrooms, an office block in Birmingham city centre, and then on to the Skanska Bristol School programme where he worked St Mary Redcliffe School, followed by Bath Spa University.


Simon’s career advice was to 'go for what you are interested in and enjoy, and don't drift …think about what you are interested in and where you want to get to – you don’t want to find that in 10, 20, 30 years you end up thinking ‘how on earth did I end up here’ and not enjoying what you are doing’.
Simon shared that some of the more challenging parts of his job are 'relying on other people, being out in all weathers, days when concrete doesn’t arrive on time or teams of painters fail to turn up – and having to manage all these logistical elements'.

Ben initially wanted to join the air force but had asthma so he decided to study engineering and law at university. After going travelling he started work for Skanska where he has worked his way up to his current position.  Ben said the the good parts of his job are 'working with good people, the satisfaction of working on buildings like schools which impact on people’s live positively – this makes you proud and it is motivating'.

Ben shared that the down sides of his profession are that 'sometimes you have to work out in the wet and cold, travel long distances for work, and that the construction industry is vulnerable to recessions'.

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